"Travel-friendly", air-cooled ITX PC build, requesting help!


Case Bender
Original poster
Jan 19, 2019
Hi, as title says, looking for some help with building a "travel-friendly" PC :-)
Would like to be able to buy a case and cooling now, but upgrade the motherboard/CPU/RAM later.

Travel-friendly in the sense that it can fit either as carry-on or be packable in a suitcase with padding and such, likely with taking off CPU heatsink and GPU so nothing breaks.
Will be travelling around a lot and would like to have a PC to connect to a portable monitor that I found (it's some Korean-made 120Hz IPS monitor, very cool!).

Budget is not very strict, but I don't want to spend a gigabillion dollars if possible.
Volume would be great if it could be under 16 liters, but layout is very important too, I think!
Weight preferrably a bit lower, because of airplane weight limitations.

Needs to be fully air-cooled, as liquid cooling is not allowed on airplanes.
Quiet in low power draw (while listening to music) would be great. Not bothered if it's a little louder during higher loads.

No tempered glass or window side panels and preferrably no LEDs that can't be disabled.

Anyway, here are a bunch of things I've been wondering about when looking around... lots of questions and thoughts:

Air flow seems to be super difficult to optimize in ITX builds. How come there are so few small volume cases with front-to-back air flow with front fans as intake and rear exhaust, like traditional tower cases?
Is it because PSU tends to be in the front (like in the Dan A4 SFX) and a front fan won't do much/enough?

Is it going to be worthwhile to swap graphis card/GPU (see parts list further down) for a smaller one to get more case options...? Or is there something to worry about when considering thermals? Or are there enough options for a 280mm 2.5 slot (height) graphis card?

The configuration of having either GPU mounted right on the motherboard without a riser is appealing to me, but it seems only the NCase M1 allows for that. I also like the "Dan A4 SFX" style where you use a riser cable and mount motherboard on one side and GPU on the other side - however I'm not entirely sure which is better for thermals. The Dan might just be too small for what I'm after.
Don't really want a console style case, not a fan of the style/stability, having spent some time with the Node 202 and Silverstone ML08. I am fairly sure there are better cases that are much better built and such, but footprint is not an issue here, just overall volume.

Is top-down style cooler or tower style cooler going to be better, assuming you have the space for either? I found a few 'studies' but it seemed to depend a lot on what fan configuration is like surrounding the CPU cooler as well, and parts configuration in the PC... I'd like some guidance on the best possible combination for cooling and case solutions, not just in terms of ultimate performance but rather best balance of cost/noise/thermals.

No cube-style cases either, preferrably... I don't really like the aesthetics much :-( sorry, cubers!

Dust filters are pretty much a no-go for any type of gaming friendly PC right? I will just have to make sure I clean it regularly if so.

If I go with one that has an intake on the bottom, like the NCase M1 for example, I don't mind getting some extra height feet or something if it will improve thermals noticeably.

My PC will be on a desk at all times, not on the floor, so hopefully it won't have a lot of dust problems.

For the build, I currently have the following parts that I would like to start off with:

Intel i5-4670K
MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X (2 fans, about 280mm length).
2x8 GB low-profile DDR3 Crucial RAM.
Scythe Big Shuriken v2 rev B (I was planning on building in a Node 202 case but I never got around to it and now I don't really want one) - this one can be replaced, just pointing out I have one.
Sandisk S-ATA 2.5" SSD (willing to swap to an M.2 if that is necessary, since the 240GB I have is getting a little small now that I have started gaming again... :-) but would prefer to be able to keep it)
No HDDs, no extras, in a define Mini case currently (have not been travelling with this one, of course).
Corsair SF450 SFX power supply

I will *hopefully not* be getting any less efficient CPU/motherboard, so I hope I can just swap in new parts if the CPU cooler will fit. I do want a bit better performance, but I am hoping newer generation CPUs are more efficient, even if only a little.

Hope I'm not writing too much here, any help is appreciated, thank you! :-)